Disclaimer: This post will include a discussion about self harm and suicide which may cause distress and be triggering. If you think this may trigger you please don’t read the article below.
I was recently alerted to a very upsetting and shocking trend that has been growing on social media networks in the news, but more directly by lifestyle and wellness blogger Casey Street.
Casey tweeted asking for people to help to raise awareness for mental health on various platforms. I responded to her tweet eager to help, and I received an email about a petition she has created after being saddened by the tragic suicide of fourteen-year-old school girl Molly Russell.
Molly Russell had viewed images on Instagram associated with self-harm and suicide, that no-one, let alone a child, should be able to see on a social media platform. Molly’s dad said that Instagram “helped kill my daughter”. This is a completely tragic story.
On Instagram there are some communities called a ‘Pro-Community’ which ‘glorifies having a mental illness, and encourages users to harm themselves continually’. Children as young as thirteen are able to view these images, such as the one below. Here Casey explains in more detail what a ‘Pro Community’ is.
In response to this tragedy Instagram announced that they would ‘ban all graphic self-harm images’. On Instagram’s ‘community guidelines’ it says:
“Encouraging or urging people to embrace self-injury is counter to this environment of support, and we’ll remove it or disable accounts if it’s reported to us. We may also remove content identifying victims or survivors of self-injury if the content targets them for attack or humor.”
However people don’t think this response goes far enough. According to The Guardian: ‘The NSPCC said that this is “an important step”, but that social networks were still falling short and that legislation would be necessary.’
Ian Russell (Molly’s dad) also called for more to be done to help police social media. He said: “I fear that the tech companies have already shown that they cannot be trusted to police this themselves and that legislation may well be needed”.
It makes me sad to think that we even have to discuss this and these communities exist online. I do believe that there should be legislation in place to help social networks ensure 100% that these images can’t be circulated on their platforms.
If you would like to sign Casey’s petition the link is below.
Molly Russell friends and family have also set up a suicide prevention charity called The Molly Rose Foundation. If you’d like to support the charity please follow this link.